Like Nothing Ever Made
Scepter 4 was responsible for all kinds of supernatural activities and cleanup. It was perhaps forgivable that in the course of one of these cleanups, Fushimi Saruhiko packed up into the van a particular bundle of odd-looking feathers and scales that reeked of magic, noted it on his report, and thought little more about it.
It was a few days later that Fushimi woke up slowly to the sound of a clanging pot in his apartment, a cupboard opening and closing, a clatter, and soft cursing.
That wasn’t right, his half-asleep brain supplied. Nobody else lived in his dorm.
That prompted action and movement, hands reaching for his knives before he stopped to do more than assess the location of the threat, stumble to his bedroom door, and fling them with impeccable aim toward the intruder in his kitchen.
A soft sound of surprise, then the intruder flipped over, knocking one knife off trajectory, avoiding the second, then landed on his feet to catch the third.
Fushimi blinked at the short redhead grinning at him from the kitchen.
Said redhead suddenly frowned and blinked between the knife and Fushimi’s groggy swaying for just a moment before tossing it back casually. “Not awake yet, huh? You could have hurt somebody.” He squinted at Fushimi. “You’re skinnier than you should be. Doesn’t anyone take care of you?” he demanded.
The redhead made unhappy fussing noises. “I’ll make more breakfast. And coffee.”
He went rummaging in the pile of ingredients on the counter, which is when Fushimi realized there were groceries. This interloper had settled into Fushimi’s kitchen like a cook on a mission and frowned in concentration as he pulled out more eggs and checked the rice cooker.
“Who are you?” Fushimi demanded loudly.
“Huh?” He glanced over. “Oh, you can call me Yata,” he said with a beaming grin.
Call me. Not naming himself properly. Inhuman reflexes. Abnormal familiarity, yet no malice.
At Fushimi’s continued look of confusion, Yata muttered, “You’re the reason I’m here.”
And that clinched it. Fushimi had been woken up by this mess, and that’s the only excuse he really had for how long it took him to notice that Yata practically emoted magic and wasn’t likely human at all.
He retreated in consternation to his bedroom, slammed the door shut, and eyed the door to the bathroom. On second thought, there was yet another reason he was in this mess. He went back out, ignoring Yata’s puzzled expression following him, and locked the front door.
The shower woke him up just enough to let him think. He worked for Scepter 4, handling all sorts of initial investigations, damage control, and aftermath cleanup. Even thinking back over the last few weeks, Fushimi didn’t know what exchange clause he’d triggered with which magical race. There were too many possibilities, taking into account they didn’t always keep the same calendars either.
He groaned and turned off the water. Maybe it was just some sort of thank you thing. He hoped.
Fushimi blinked at the spread Yata had out on the table when he emerged.
“Oi! Sit down before it gets cold.” Yata frowned as Fushimi came over. “You really are skinny.” He seemed to eye the week’s worth of breakfasts on the table as if uncertain whether it was enough.
Fushimi just sighed. “I’m not eating that,” he added, gesturing toward the vegetables.
Yata looked mildly indignant.
“I can’t eat all this at once,” Fushimi added.
“Well, no.” Yata plunked a huge mug of steaming coffee in front of Fushimi. “I’m eating too.”
Fushimi couldn’t help but immediately pull that to the fore. It was hard to go wrong with coffee in the morning, unless you only ever made tea or were Awashima with an unholy love of anko.
“Good, huh?” Yata grinned and sat down and started eating.
Fushimi eyed him suspiciously. He didn’t want to examine too closely the odd feeling it gave him to have someone express caring and go as far as actually making him food. A magic someone. He paused, took another look at both mug and plate to ensure there were no signs of magic. Eating magic food tended to have severe—and permanent—consequences.
Yata perked up curiously. “Where did you learn Sight?”
Fushimi shrugged. “It’s not that uncommon.”
Yata scoffed but didn’t argue. Instead, he waved at all the bits of technology and computer parts Fushimi had left in the living room from one of his projects. “Do you work with computers or something?” His eyes lit up with enthusiasm.
An odd question. Most members of the magical community weren’t particularly compatible with modern technology. Some were.
Fushimi narrowed his eyes. “Are you from one of the Clans?”
Yata waved admonishing chopsticks at him. “Don’t say it like you don’t have clan. I can sense them on you.”
That took Fushimi aback. What kind of creature could sense professional relationships? Fushimi frowned, then came back to something Yata had said earlier. “I’m the reason you’re here?”
Yata eyed him back, equally suspicious. “Your kind generally doesn’t marry my kind on accident.”
Fushimi nearly dropped the coffee mug and stared openly. Marry?
Yata blinked at his reaction, eyes widening in surprise. “You didn’t.”
“Why would I marry you on purpose?” Fushimi snarled back, unthinking.
Yata looked like he’d been struck. A moment of stunned silence, then he scrambled out of his seat, looked around in perfect line with the heaviest traces of magic he’d left across Fushimi’s apartment, snatched up a skateboard Fushimi hadn’t even noticed before, and went out the front door.
It happened so suddenly.
Fushimi leaned back. There was nothing wrong with what he’d said, considering this whole thing was sprung on him, and he wasn’t even remotely interested in marriage, but the look on Yata’s face wasn’t something Fushimi ever wanted to see again. He’d struck a magical being, and he had no idea what the consequences were for doing it, but they weren’t always something as simple or desirable as divorce.
Married. This wasn’t a tie he could ignore.
Fushimi frowned grimly, ate little, and packed the rest in the refrigerator. He decided not to risk learning consequences for disrespecting a gift either. He took a moment to call into work before he went in, and let them know he would be working on a special investigation today instead of the busywork he’d been assigned.
“Congratulations, Yata!” Chitose looked practically radiant on Yata’s behalf.
Kamamoto seemed slightly more discerning and asked, “Is he nice, Yata?”
“He’s the grumpiest person I’ve ever met,” Yata muttered. But also incredibly smart and interesting from what little Yata had seen—and uninterested in being married. Let them think the problem was he didn’t like the thief rather than the other way around.
He endured the backslapping congratulations of the other clansmen while doing his best to sink entirely into Kusanagi’s bar top. A sympathetic glance and small glass of some kind of alcohol slid across to him. “Ah, thanks.”
Someone stole his skin and didn’t even have the decency to want it for the usual reasons. Maybe there was some other thing he wanted if he didn’t want a spouse.
It was late by the time the bell rang for any outside customers at the bar. Kusanagi had a knack for making his place welcoming or unwelcoming to humans, and right now, it was feeling somewhat ominous for anyone not of their clan.
But someone came in, one of those Blues who supposedly guarded against magic run amok and regulated human magic-users. They came by every now and again when they thought a matter should probably be handled by the non-human community instead.
This particular Blue had never come by before.
Yata sat up, mouth falling open abruptly.
Fushimi stood there, looking just as grumpy as this morning when he was complaining about the food, and pushed up his glasses before nodding minutely at Kusanagi. “I shouldn’t have to go looking for you,” he said.
Yata scowled, fist clenching. “You—” But before he finished getting even the word out, Fushimi looked straight at him, and whatever he was going to say died on his tongue. Fushimi came looking for him.
Maybe things weren’t entirely terrible.
“Ah, fine.” He got up, jammed his hands in his pockets, and went for his skateboard. It was downright frustrating to not be able to just fly where he wanted to go, but supposedly getting married was some sort of compensation for the loss of his primary means of travel.
There were more than a few curious looks, but only Totsuka offered an, “It’s nice to meet you, Fushimi.”
Fushimi didn’t look like he particularly returned the sentiment, and Yata didn’t feel like getting in hot water for Fushimi being rude to Totsuka, so he cut over Fushimi’s response with, “Thanks!” and dragged Fushimi outside.
Fushimi frowned at him. “Afraid I’ll say something they don’t like?” He looked mildly amused.
Yata just tucked the skateboard under his arm and looped his other through Fushimi’s, who stared at it like the most nonsensical thing he’d ever seen. “Let’s just go home.”
Fushimi’s uncomfortable stare snapped back up then. He sighed and let Yata lead off in the right direction.
He’d planned for Yata to sleep on the couch, but somehow he’d forgotten the importance of mentioning that before Yata instead collapsed onto one side of Fushimi’s futon and curled up, asleep in moments. He’d stripped down to a thin tank and shorts and thankfully wasn’t a sprawler, so Fushimi sighed but didn’t argue, just crawled into the other half of the bed and fell asleep.
He dreamed of being enfolded in soft black wings and woke up to the warmth of another person plastered to his back, head tucked against his shoulder, and still clearly asleep.
It was surprisingly pleasant.
Fushimi carefully extricated himself to a soft noise of protest and went to shower. It was too easy to feel like this accident might mean something, but it couldn’t. It didn’t.
Over the next so long, it’s not like Fushimi started enjoying Yata’s company. He got used to him…
Used to his annoying tendencies:
He was in the middle of a search for something when Yata thoroughly, abruptly surprised him.
“Oi, Saruhiko! Do you want stir fry or soba?”
Saruhiko looked up very slowly from the computer. “You know my name.”
“It’s on your mail!” Yata rubbed the back of his neck. “I only snooped a little. I mean, you’d married me.”
Not something Saruhiko actually wanted to be reminded of. “So what’s your name?” he asked viciously.
Yata’s eyes widened.
“You know mine,” Saruhiko pressed. “You could do anything with it.”
Yata scowled but caved with a slump of his shoulders. “It’s Misaki.”
Saruhiko blinked. “Huh.” A girl’s name. But he didn’t know much of anything about Misaki’s species, and he didn’t exactly have a fortunate name himself. “Soba.” He went back to his search results.
Used to his caring:
“Don’t you have a partner or something?” Misaki demanded as he forcibly sat Saruhiko down on the couch.
Saruhiko blinked and stared in consternation, not having realized Misaki was so physically strong. “It’s nothing.”
Misaki yanked off Saruhiko’s disheveled jacket and then the rest of his layers without difficulty, despite Saruhiko’s protest, and looked at the nasty gash he’d just managed to slip out of Scepter 4 without stitches with.
Misaki muttered unmentionables under his breath and opened the first aid kit. “Hold still or I’ll let it hurt.”
Saruhiko didn’t ask what magic made it not hurt. He just held still, five inches from Misaki’s face while Misaki cleaned and sewed (there went the no stitches plan) and bandaged, and looked intensely focused on nothing but Saruhiko.
It was… Saruhiko turned away to look at the ticking hands on the clock. Nice.
Which became an annoying thing when Misaki suddenly showed up on several of his missions on a skateboard and proved a few more times that his reflexes and strength were well outside the norm. He shot such a ferocious grin of pleasure at Saruhiko that he gave up fighting Misaki on it before they even started.
Used to his clambering into bed behind Saruhiko and cuddling in like they had no reason to be self-conscious, and like it didn’t make Saruhiko blush and breath a little more shallowly until Misaki went to sleep.
He tried to remember this had all been an accident and one he ought to go do something about.
Yata found the skin in the living room and stopped cold, staring. He slowly turned to see Fushimi standing in the doorway to the bedroom, that same look of quiet misery and distrust on his face that had been there since day one.
But no. It didn’t matter that Yata had learned how to make him smile. It didn’t matter that trying to sleep alone no longer felt right, even on short naps. It didn’t matter that their magic was starting to tangle together the way it ought or that Yata kept dreaming of what it would be like to tangle their bodies together too.
Or that he let Fushimi call him by his name, something no magical being gave out lightly. He flushed, hot tears trying to well up, and brushed them away.
“There’s coffee on the stove,” he said. He didn’t bother telling him there was breakfast too. He didn’t bother answering Fushimi’s wide surprised eyes. He gently scooped up his skin and slid through the comforting familiar magic into the shape of the crow he was, and flew away before Fushimi could say anything at all about why he wanted him gone.
Fushimi nearly snapped off the knees and heads of anyone that dared come near him that day. He was a hard worker, however much he complained about it, but right now, he was lividly tearing through paperwork like it had mortally offended him, then he disappeared into the archives for the third time in a month for the remainder of the day.
No one dared comment.
It had taken Fushimi days to figure out how he’d married Misaki in the first place, and he couldn’t even believe it when he considered how impersonally he’d packed away that skin and placed it in storage himself. (What would have happened if he’d handed it off to the girl actually in charge of magical storage? He shuddered to think of it.)
It had taken him even longer to figure out what he ought to do about it. He didn’t want to hold Misaki against his will. He hadn’t intended to bond them magically in the first place.
But he’d never expected to try and fix things and only have Misaki vanish immediately. He should have, he thought to himself bitterly all morning long. But then he saw that stunned, teary-eyed look on Misaki’s face, and he couldn’t help but feel he’d screwed up somehow before he even opened his mouth.
It took days again to dig through all the piles of magical knowledge Scepter 4 had compiled over decades and figure out just what was the significance of giving back a shapeshifter spouse’s skin.
Then he cursed under his breath.
How had he managed to marry a magical shapeshifter on accident, then divorce him equally on accident. He slammed the books shut, shoved them back in their places, and left work early without so much as telling anyone why.
There weren’t any misguided, raucous congratulations or any words at all this time, and Yata was grateful for it. He was doing an even better impression of disappearing into the bar top this time, and his drink was untouched despite the fact that it might make him feel a little more numb.
He was already too numb.
He’d managed not to be a bawling mess, but it was taking all the feeling of his clan around him in silent commiseration to pull that off.
The bell above the door tinkled, despite the overwhelming not welcome aura Kusanagi had put in place.
A few heads turned, which turned to quiet muttering and a general undertone of surprise. Yata hunched his shoulders and tried to ignore the entire situation.
But there was an all too familiar tongue click and a low sigh, and Yata shot up and whirled around to stare at Saruhiko, who wasn’t even looking at him. He was looking around the bar until he spotted the bundle of black feathers and magic that was Yata’s second skin.
Then he looked at Yata. “Idiot,” he muttered. He went over and grabbed the skin, then leaned his head back to add, “I shouldn’t have to go looking for you.”
He didn’t know whether to punch Saruhiko or kiss him. He opted to lunge and yank Saruhiko down by his shirt collar. “What the fuck?” he demanded. He was crying because this was one feeling too much to hold inside him, and he didn’t even know what to feel, only that he wanted Saruhiko right here and to never, ever scare him like that again.
“You could have said something,” Saruhiko muttered, eyes narrowing.
Blank. Yata was drawing a blank on words and growled something that expressed his feelings, even if he had no idea what to think.
Saruhiko sighed, then smiled a soft, helpless sort of smile that made Yata want to melt. “Come home.”
Kiss him. He wanted to kiss him. So he did.
He’d just have to punch him later.
Later, at home, Misaki looked puzzled at the closet Saruhiko had cleared out, but, “That’s where we’ll keep it. I was just getting it out of storage. It’s yours anyway.”
Misaki blinked in surprise. “Huh.” But he hung up the skin and felt like he’d finally properly moved in. He was home.0